D-Day Reenactment Canceled Over Health And Safety Concerns

Photo Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the U.K.’s largest D-Day reenactments set to take place in June 2021 has been canceled over health and safety fears of “blown sand” and “surface water.” The event last took place in 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to 2020’s proceedings.

The event is held on Saunton beach annually and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Saunton D-Day reenactment event

It is held to commemorate the men who trained at the beach in preparation for the D-Day invasion. Over 10,000 men were trained by Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Thompson on Saunton beach between September 1943 and April 1944.

Training exercise Fabius at Slapton Sands, Devon, 3rd - 9th May May 1944.
A similar training exercise at Slapton Sands, Devon, 1944. (Photo Credit: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

The beach was used thanks to its near-identical nature to Omaha beach, one of the main landing beaches during the D-Day invasions of Normandy. Its sand quality, tidal-range and gradient of the beach were all extremely similar to the French beach, making it the ideal location to train on.

The family-friendly Saunton D-Day event takes place in June and features a full weekend of historical military vehicles, period living encampment displays, D-Day reenactments, and food. A German camp display shows visitors what life was like for the average defender of the Normandy beaches before the landings. Two major Omaha beach battle reenactments take place per day at the event, showing the fire and fury experienced by those on both sides.

The D-Day event features many military vehicles, including tanks and trucks, as well as weapon displays.

2021 event is canceled

The 2021 event has been canceled due to conditions on the beach and surrounding areas not being at a standard to safely hold the event.

Military Training Area warning sign, Braunton Burrows, Devon, UK.
Military Training Area warning sign, Braunton Burrows, Devon, UK. (Photo Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The event’s organizer released a statement on May 7 saying, “It’s with a heavy heart that we have to cancel Saunton D-Day and Devon D-Day on 5th and 6th June this year over safety issues.”

“Having inspected the tracks on Braunton Burrows, they are in such a poor state of repair they are downright dangerous. Add to that the surface water everywhere that simply won’t drain away — four feet deep at the concrete landing craft yesterday.”

“Blown sand six feet high across some of the tracks off the beach. Access everywhere is so poor even the military have restricted vehicle activity,” the organizer continued.

“None of these problems can be rectified in time and we don’t want you or your vehicle damaged so we have to look forward to next year.”

Flooding at Braunton Burrows, 2014.
Flooding at Braunton Burrows, 2014. (Photo Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This news comes after the organisers confirmed the weekend would be low-key event featuring just a two-day convoy and “nothing like the scale of previous events,” due to financial cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saunton D-Day Facebook page released a statement, including “As the Burrows is a UNESCO biosphere, SSSI area and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are very strict guidelines which need to be followed in regards to route planning for such an event.”

“Devon D-Day’s decision to cancel the convoy was influenced by the logistics issues presented by the state of Burrows tracks following heavy winter rains and resulting flood damage which has impacted the biosphere.”

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Naturally, locals and visitors alike are disappointed with the news, as it is one of the area’s highlight events of the year. Many understand the issues the organizers face but remark, “They obviously don’t want any accidents and you can understand they need to be careful, but you can imagine a few of the soldiers who trained there for the real thing scoffing at the decision.”

While the 2021 event is canceled, hopefully, 2022 will bring smoother times for this great event.

Jesse Beckett

Jesse Beckett is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE